In Part 1 of our defensive line preview, we looked at the Cleveland Browns’ top five linemen, which had a mix of defensive ends and defensive tackles. For Part 2, we shift our attention to five other linemen who would figure to compete at the defensive tackle position.
6. Larry Ogunjobi - Rookie Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 305 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: Rookie | College: North Carolina Charlotte
Taken with the first pick of the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft (No. 65 overall), Ogunjobi was on the North team at the Senior Bowl, where Browns coaches (who were on the South team) were able to get a pretty close look at him. After the selection, Browns VP of Player Personnel Andrew Berry specifically noted how Ogunjobi shined at the Senior Bowl, giving Cleveland a physical player inside, something they needed with their intention to play more four-man fronts under Gregg Williams.
The day of the draft, this impressive-looking workout video was posted on Twitter, drawing the collective approval of Browns fans:
.@Mr_Ogunjobi is Cleveland through & through— NEVER stops working hard!— FOX Sports: PROcast (@PROcast) April 29, 2017
Check out the DT the @Browns just took! pic.twitter.com/fuTPCbmFLa
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports projected Ogunjobi as being best-suited as a "one-gap, penetrating three-technique in the NFL with his quick, balanced skill-set." At Browns minicamp, the nose tackle/3-technique spot is exactly the role he was filling. He has a great initial quickness that can cause disruption or confusion in gaps, but still has some fundamentals that need to be worked on.
Ogunjobi’s roster spot should be guaranteed as the first pick of the third round, and I don’t think he’s such a raw talent that the team will have to sit him -- he’ll be a part of the rotation right away. Whether he sees starter-level reps will depend on the competition around him, like whether veteran Desmond Bryant still looks like his old self, and how consistent fellow rookie Caleb Brantley ends up being.
Side note: rufio believes that both rookies will play left defensive tackle/strong side DT, “otherwise known as a poor man's Aaron Donald.”
Final Roster Odds: 100%
7. Caleb Brantley - Rookie Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 307 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Florida
The Browns’ selection of Brantley in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL Draft was met with heavy controversy as there was a pending assault charge against him. I thought the Browns’ front office handled the entire situation perfectly, though. Brantley was a player who had legitimate 2nd round potential, so the team didn’t mind the potential of wasting a 6th round pick if Brantley ended up being charged (and they made it clear that they would release him if such charges came down). As it turns out, two weeks after the draft, the battery complaint was dismissed by the State Attorney in Florida due to “insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.”
In terms of Brantley’s anticipated role as a football player, you can copy+paste everything I said above about Ogunjobi. In college, Brantley mostly saw action as a 1-technique, but is also familiar with the 3-technique. Brantley's stock had the potential to be very high, thanks to attributes like these, as described by Brugler:
“When firing on all cylinders, he is a menace to block with his initial quickness and active hands to win gaps, keep himself clean and make stops in the backfield.”
The big downside that negatively impacted his stock (besides the personal issue) related to his inconsistency -- "disappearing for stretches and giving sporadic effort," as Brugler put it. It's a habit that defensive line coach Clyde Simmons pointed out with this bold message following the conclusion of minicamp:
#Browns DL coach Clyde Simmons said rookie Caleb Brantley looks like 1st-round talent sometimes and like he shouldn't be playing other times— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) June 15, 2017
Simmons did add that he believes his message is getting through to Brantley, and that his effort was “night and day” from the start of minicamp to the end of it. I’d be hard-pressed to believe Brantley’s effort issues can be resolved as a rookie, but managing his reps as a rotational player can minimize how much of a liability that actually is -- if he’s at the top of his game when he goes in, he could be the team’s best option in spurts at the 3-technique.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
8. Jamie Meder - Veteran & Local Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 308 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 3 years | College: Ashland
Meder will be entering his fourth season with the Browns, and a fun fact that you might not have realized is that he was credited with 15 starts a year ago. Hailing from Cleveland, OH and otherwise known as the “Pierogi Prince of Parma,” he was an exclusive rights free agent this offseason and the club chose to tender him for a season.
In 2016, Meder finished with a career high in tackles (48) and had 1 sack on the year. He also blocked a field goal in Week 16, which helped give the Browns their only win of the season. He was a consistent, albeit not dominant player, who could play defensive end, defensive tackle, or nose tackle. However, in PFF’s review of the Browns’ front seven from a year ago, Meder received a very below average grade.
In Gregg Williams’ defense, I could see him being the backup to Danny Shelton at his defensive tackle spot, or a player who can be a stable presence amidst a young line.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
9. Xavier Cooper - Pass-Rushing Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 300 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Washington State
I will admit that I come on strong for not being a believer in Cooper. A late 3rd-round pick in 2015, he was sold as an interior pass-rushing specialist. In two seasons, he has a combined 1.5 sacks and has generated a minimal pass rush.
As a rookie, Cooper was ranked as the worst interior defender in the NFL by PFF out of 124 players. Things weren’t much better for him in 2016, when he didn’t register a single sack. Heading into 2017, he’ll still be living on that reputation of being a lineman who can penetrate from the interior as a rotational player, but unless Clyde Simmons and Gregg Williams can work wonders with him, I see Cooper falling to the back of the depth chart and off the roster by the time final cuts are due.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
10. Trevon Coley - Backup Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 310 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: 1 year | College: Florida Atlantic
An undrafted free agent in 2016, Coley signed with the Baltimore Ravens but did not make their final roster out of training camp. In late-November, he signed on to the Redskins' practice squad for a couple of weeks. In mid-December, the Browns signed him to their practice squad, and then retained his rights for the 2017 offseason.
Last year, PFF ranked Coley as the 35th best undrafted free agent, with the following assessment:
Showing some burst off the ball, Coley’s +21.8 pass rush grade ranked 10th in the class and he was solid against the run at +10.2. At 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, he could work into the defensive line rotation on the interior.
Those are some pretty solid grades. You can watch some of his YouTube highlights form college here, and I’m more intrigued by what he has to offer in camp than I am with Cooper.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
I’m going to try asking two poll questions for today’s preview:
Who do you expect a bigger rookie season from?
This poll is closed
About the same
Do you expect Jamie Meder and/or Xavier Cooper to make the team this year?
This poll is closed
Meder and Cooper both make it
Meder makes it, Cooper gets cut
Cooper makes it, Meder gets cut
Both players get cut